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BCIL Speaker Series Address Space Exploration & Gaming for Social Impact
by Katie McKellar, Assistant Director of the BCIL

The BCIL Speaker Series returned this fall to both campuses with students learning about challenges related to space exploration and social impact through gaming. The Speaker Series is a unique opportunity for students to hear from professionals in the field who are doing work related to the BCIL mission. During the events students engage in a design sprint related to challenges our speakers are experiencing directly in their field. 

On the West Campus, 2nd graders kicked off their space unit hearing from Dr. Aidyl Gonzalez. In addition to her role as an Upper School Science teacher and member of the BCIL Collaborative, Dr. Gonzalez is a scientist astronaut candidate who is training to travel to space in the near future. She has spent the equivalent of four months living 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a model space station with astronauts from around the world conducting research experiments. Her research focuses on the study of worms and how they can be used to change the soil on other planets so food can grow and oxygen can be released. Second graders got to see videos of Dr. Gonzalez from her trip to Poland this summer for a space training mission, and another highlight was getting to hold petri dishes of live worms! Dr. Gonzalez shared with students the following live challenge: Design a way to help astronauts deal with loneliness or people not getting along in space. Students presented ideas such as bringing pictures of family, friends and pets, creating a satellite outside the ISS to improve communication, and using solar panels to improve charging of batteries inside the space station. She then left students with a design challenge to design an improved space station, and students have continued to meet with members of the BCIL team this month to hear about current challenges in space station design. Next they will spend time in the Idea Lab prototyping ideas. 

Students shared some thank you's and reflections on the talk with Dr. G. Below are some of their responses...

On the East Campus, alumna Francesca Palamara ’14 joined virtually for our Speaker Series, which was attended by over 100 6th-12th graders. Francesca is currently a Production Assistant at Epic Games. She is passionate about bringing social justice to gaming and has pursued various projects on voting and mental health. During the event, Francesca shared with the students the following live challenge: Thinking from the standpoint of a creator, how might we combat unconscious bias in the development of entertainment? Students shared ideas such as building diverse teams, consulting constituents from different backgrounds when building games, and creating character options that break down stereotypes.  

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